Television exposure is related to fear of avian flu, an Ecological Study across 23 member states of the European Union

Eur J Public Health. 2009 Aug;19(4):370-4. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckp061. Epub 2009 May 18.


Background: A pandemic outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza is believed to coincide with large-scale panic. Even without an outbreak fear of infection may be widespread. Mass media coverage of the risks of a pandemic may lead to higher levels of fear.

Methods: An ecological study looked at data from 23 member states of the European Union and controlled for population size, level of education, age distribution and income and wealth.

Results: When the findings for Cyprus were excluded each additional hour of average TV viewing was associated with a 15.6% increase in the proportion of people worrying about the virus. TV viewing explained 52% of the variance.

Conclusion: Fear of a pandemic precedes any real pandemic and may have to be dealt with separately. Exposure to television is highly associated with worrying about the virus. This relationship merits further study.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • European Union*
  • Fear*
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype*
  • Influenza in Birds*
  • Influenza, Human* / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Television / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult